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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ROBERT LAWRENCE DOLAN (05/15/81)

filed: May 15, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
v.
ROBERT LAWRENCE DOLAN, APPELLANT



No. 246 Pittsburgh, 1980, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Criminal Division, at No. 801 April Term, 1979

COUNSEL

Irving M. Green, New Kensington, for appellant.

David B. Wasson, Assistant District Attorney, Greensburg, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Hester, Brosky and Van der Voort, JJ.

Author: Brosky

[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 204]

Appellant was convicted of arson*fn1 and theft by deception*fn2 before a jury. Post-conviction motions were filed and denied. Dolan raises several issues on appeal all related to the sufficiency of the evidence. We affirm.

This appeal arises out of the following facts. Dolan was the owner of a 1976 Ford LTD automobile. On October 9, 1978, he reported his automobile stolen. This information, according to the appellant, was conveyed to the police by telephone from a pay phone at a mall in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The State Police located Dolan's automobile on October 10, 1978 on a dirt road off of Donahue Road in Unity Township, Pennsylvania, which is several miles from the mall in Greensburg.

When the police found the appellant's car, its interior was badly burned; specifically, the front seat was burned. During their investigation, the police discovered an empty can of charcoal lighter fluid within 20 feet of the automobile. The police also determined that the car's ignition had not been forcibly turned and that the doors were locked with no sign

[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 205]

    of unauthorized entry. Some time later, the police ascertained that the appellant had the keys to his car in his possession.

During preliminary discussions with the appellant, the police determined that Dolan needed a ride home from the mall after he discovered his car had been stolen. Appellant resides with his parents three miles from the mall in Hempfield Township; and at the time Dolan's car was reported stolen, his parents were at home and could pick him up with their automobile. Nevertheless, appellant sought the assistance of a friend, who was also a business associate, who lived in Latrobe, ten miles from the mall, in the opposite direction from his parents' home.

Therefore, appellant's associate traveled from his home 13 miles to Dolan's home. The record discloses that appellant's associate needed to drive down Donahue Road, past here appellant's burnt automobile was found, to get to the mall to pick up Dolan.

The police investigation also determined that the appellant's automobile was being paid on time at a rate over $75 per month more than the rate at which appellant was able to finance the automobile he bought to replace the automobile which was destroyed. Further, evidence indicated appellant's old car was very large with very poor gas mileage, while his replacement vehicle was an economy car.

At trial, the Commonwealth submitted evidence that the charcoal lighter fluid can had fingerprints of the appellant on it and that those fingerprints were the ones most recently applied to the can. The expert also said there were unidentifiable prints on the can which appeared older and which may or may not have been appellant's. Dolan denied ever owning the charcoal lighter fluid or having anything to do with the fluid.

Dolan demonstrated at trial, through the use of a defense witness, that the police could have, but did not prove that the fire in the front seat of appellant's car was caused by the ignition of charcoal lighter fluid. And, secondly, ...


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